Rodrigo y Gabriela plays everything from heavy metal to jazz to acoustic folk. The duo started out in a thrash-metal band in Mexico City, but moved to Dublin in 1999. From Ireland, its inventive instrumental music spread to the U.K., then to Europe and the U.S. before finally finding its way back to Mexico. Rodrigo y Gabriela's big break came in 2006, when the pair's self-titled debut topped the Irish charts. In 2008, 11:11 became a mainstream success in the U.S., boosted by prominent placement on MTV and ESPN's Monday Night Football. In spite of a busy touring schedule, the duo was able travel to Cuba and spend time in the studio to craft its ambitious new album, Area 52.
Area 52 is nothing if not bold, with Rodrigo y Gabriela's performances aided by C.U.B.A., a 13-piece Cuban orchestra. Although the album features no new material, the duo revisits its previous works with deftness and an emphasis on experimentation. The fast, heavy acoustic-guitar riffs are transformed by the brass section, which on Area 52 injects a zesty Cuban jazz feel into an already lively sound.